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The Answer to Preventing Animal Abuse: Humane Education?

The Answer to Preventing Animal Abuse: Humane Education?

We seem to constantly hear about animal abuse in the news.

Philadelphia just reported of a young, female pit bull found hanged on a playground.  In Baltimore there seems to be an epidemic of animal abuse amongst the youth, which includes a puppy beaten to death, another dog pelted with stones and yet another set on fire — just this year alone.

With all the animal abuse happening in the world, there might just be a solution — humane education.  Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia provides a Humane Education Program to fifth graders at John Wister Elementary School. CNKP is a group of Philadelphia citizens, led by Garrett Elwood, who have organized with the goal of making Philadelphia a no-kill city by 2018.

One of the many stops along the road to achieving that goal is to educate Philadelphia’s youth about kindness toward animals. CNKP reports “Many incidents of animal abuse and neglect occur simply because of ignorance. We feel that our children could make better decisions for the future if only given the proper information on which to base their decisions.”

The CNKP Humane Education Program is provided free of charge.  Once per month, for the entire school year, Claire Tillman, Program Director, visits fifth graders at John Wister Elementary School.   

Teaching Goals include:

  • The value of kindness (empathy)
  • Respect for animals
  • How to properly care for animals
  • The way animals behave
  • The consequences of irresponsible behavior toward animals

Program Topics include:

  • How Do You Greet a Dog? 
  • Adopting versus Buying 
  • Pit Bull Myths 
  • Animal Abuse – What is it and why do people do it? How to help.
  • Shelter Life – explain how animals end up in shelters and how to help
  • Spay/Neuter education
  • Being a responsible owner – explain all that goes into pet ownership

Visits from various dogs add to the learning process.  Kim Wolf and Thad Stringer are parents of five rescued dogs. They regularly bring Sarge, a 16-year-old Pit Bull rescued from a life as a bait dog in a Philadelphia dog fighting operation, and his “girlfriend”, Mary Todd Lincoln, a Pug — who only has eyes for Sarge — to interact with the children.

Sarge and Mary Todd are an unlikely duo, but a couple just the same! Last month Sarge received an Achievement Award from Mayor Michael Nutter for his therapy visits to numerous city schools and nursing homes.

When asked how the year-long humane education course has affected the children, fifth-grade-teacher Lindsay Brown replied “the improvement in behavior is measurable on so many levels.  The kids are kinder to each other, there are fewer arguments and fights and they are more aware of the plight of abandoned and abused animals. They ask how they can help rescue them.” 

Brown went on to describe one child in particular who completely changed his behavior. He went from exhibiting consistently problematic behavior to not one incident the entire school year.

On Tuesday, June 15, the first graduation ceremony was held. Each student received a diploma, a medal, a bracelet and a tee shirt from CNKP for completion of the humane education program. After the ceremony, the students headed outside to their garden. There, they dedicated a tree with a plaque, to the memory of the pets who had died this year. It was their idea — sounds like humane education has made a difference.

There is no doubt, providing education on the proper treatment of animals and incorporating all living beings into your circle of compassion, is the way to start changing the fate of abused and homeless animals. Kudos to CNKP, Claire Tillman, Lindsay Brown and the fifth graders at John Wister Elementary School for taking the time to teach and learn.

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Photo of Sarge from his Facebook page.

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10:27PM PST on Mar 5, 2015

Here I would love to be pleased about your work for fine truth and got educational facts from here.

6:49AM PDT on Apr 2, 2014

Please bring this to everyone's attention. You need publicity and coverage in other cities. It is the least intrusive way to bring a new outlook on all life into the world of children who have never been taught compassion or empathy.

9:45PM PDT on May 19, 2013

Very important for a program like this to be offered in all schools!

1:46AM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

Great idea!

5:24AM PST on Mar 8, 2013

This is an important move

10:12AM PST on Dec 14, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

8:33AM PDT on Oct 20, 2012

OF course education will help, but we need much stricter laws for these offenders. Harming animals is a cowards way of trying to be macho, picking on the innocent and helpless. ITs a power thing and until we get tougher penalties and show no tolerance toward these sicko's, we will always have abuse. Yes there are some neglect cases just from laziness or ignorance, but to intentionally harm an animal is just a step away from being a sociopath.

10:27PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

I believe that a Humane Education in all levels of schooling will create a significant impact to all societies. It is indeed a must that for educational institutions to succeed it is not only by preparing the youth for their professions and skills that must be given prioritized but also by teaching them moral and social responsibility by caring unconditionally for animals. As Gandhi said, the way a society treats its animals reflects its progress. In this way, if there is humane education, societies will thrive and educational institutions and educators will achieve in building up a morally responsible people- well-rounded individuals who are compassionate and understanding to all creatures.

1:36PM PDT on Oct 12, 2011


10:06PM PDT on Sep 17, 2011

Nothing will eliminate animal abuse altogether, but this sounds like a good way to minimize it.

I did not learn how to treat animals from my parents; while neither would have intentionally hurt a domestic animal, they did not know how to treat them, and they did not hesitate to kill wild animals they regarded as vermin. Fortunately I had an older sister who loved animals and taught me that dogs have feelings, that garter snakes won't hurt me, and that spiders are our friends (in the garden, anyway!) For children like me, this kind of program would do a world of good. If it helps children with disciplinary problems, that's even better. I hope this kind of program spreads throughout the country (and eventually, around the world).

We need to keep in mind, though, that a program like this is no better than its teachers. Before establishing the program in a given community, they'll have to make sure that a qualified and committed instructor is available. Many a good program has been ruined by expanding too fast for its supply of teachers.

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